Thu Nov 7 7:19pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
In this Oct. 13, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens answers questions after an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, in Cleveland. Kitchens sold cars in Alabama before he got into coaching. So at least hes got a fallback plan. The Browns first-year coach, whose selection was met with some skepticism because of his lack of experience, could be down to his final games if Cleveland doesnt turn around a season that has derailed after beginning with sky-high optimism.(AP Photo/David Richard, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) Freddie Kitchens sold cars in Alabama before he got into coaching. He may soon have to rely on those sales skills to make a case for keeping his job.
The Browns' first-year coach, whose selection was met with some skepticism because of his lack of experience, could be down to his final games if Cleveland doesn't turn around a season that has derailed after beginning with sky-high optimism.
Handed a talented team, Kitchens hasn't been able to mold the Browns (2-6) into anything close to resembling a playoff contender. He's got time, but it could be running short and a win over the Buffalo Bills (6-2) on Sunday would go a long way to helping him cool the hot seat he's currently occupying.
The Browns have lost four straight games and are winless at home. But more troubling for their fans, general manager John Dorsey and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who green lighted his hiring, Kitchens is in charge of a team that has played with little discipline or cohesion since Week 1 and quarterback Baker Mayfield seems to be regressing.
One week, it's too many turnovers. The next, dumb penalties or questionable play-calling. Last week in Denver, it was a lack of execution in the red zone along with silly and scary distractions.
Fair or not, Kitchens is taking the heat for all of the Browns' many imperfections.
While there are problems, left guard Joel Bitonio doesn't think Kitchens should be blamed for everything. After all, he wasn't the one touting the Browns as a Super Bowl contender.
''It's a tough spot,'' said Bitonio, one of the team's captains. ''You come into a team that has high expectations. You have a second-year quarterback. You have some new players who have big personalities, but in controlling that I think he's done a good job. Our locker room, we've had good morale. It's not like we're in a bad space. We feel good about it, now we just got to do the job on the field.''
The Browns are having issues. The Bills are having fun.
They've been one of the league's biggest surprises, off to their best eight-game start since 1993. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen is developing as hoped and the Bills are doing just enough to win.
But despite their success in the season's first half, the Bills aren't being viewed as legitimate mostly because of their schedule. Buffalo's six wins have come against opponents with a combined 9-44 record.
''Until we can consistently win in this league, it's always going to be doubters,'' said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. ''Buffalo has a perception nationally of still being that same team that didn't make the playoffs for 17 years. So until we actually do something, go to the playoffs consecutively, win a playoff game being able to make it to a championship and actually win a Super Bowl, people are always going to have that perspective. It's up to us to change that.''
IN THE HUNT
The Browns are hoping for an offensive boost from running back Kareem Hunt, who is eligible to play after serving an eight-game NFL suspension for two physical altercations.
Hunt is one of the league's most versatile backs, and he'll give Mayfield a short target and be another weapon for Kitchens, who may play him alongside Nick Chubb.
GORE VS SINGLETARY
Though rookie running back Devin Singletary's production and playing time are up, the Bills insist 15-year veteran Frank Gore remains a key part of their offensive attack.
''Every week's different, game-plan wise,'' said coach Sean McDermott. ''Every week's different in terms of the flow of the game. We've got a lot of confidence in Frank Gore. Frank's a big part of what we're doing here and his personality on our football team is important. That toughness.''
Singletary had a season-high 95 yards rushing, including a touchdown, and 45 receiving last week in a win over Washington.
Gore had just 15 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The Browns scored just one touchdown on five trips inside Denver's 20-yard line last week, continuing a season-long inability to finish drives.
Cleveland ranks 25th in the league in red-zone offense (46.2 percent). Buffalo is first (71.4).
One solution could be getting the ball more to star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has just one TD catch and has only been targeted seven times this season in the red zone.
''Until we do better in the red zone, all of us, it's going to be tough to feel like I need to get the ball when we get down there,'' Beckham said. ''But I can smell blood when I get down there. I'm close to the end zone, I want it. It's just a matter of finding the right play in the right time.''
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku has been declared inactive for the team's Week 15 game. Njoku did not look sharp during practice this week and struggled with drops and some routes during the week, according to the Associated Press' Tom Withers.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku recently returned from the Reserve/Injured list but appears to need more time to return to game speed. Demetrius Harris likely will serve as the starting tight end but can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is listed as active for Week 15's matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. This was expected as Thielen completed a full week of practice. He will return to a favorable matchup as stud cornerback Desmond King will not play and the Chargers rank 20th in pass DVOA for the season. The Vikings passing game has been rolling as of late and they project to have to throw in this game as they're favored by just one point. Obviously, Thielen comes with some risk as he's returning from a lengthy injury absence, but he can be utilized in fantasy lineups as a high-end WR3 with sneaky upside in this matchup.
The Minnesota Vikings have declared RB Alexander Mattison, DE Hercules Mata'afa, OT Aviante Collins, DE Jalyn Holmes, SS Jayron Kearse, OL Olisaemeka Udoh and OG Dru Samia inactive for Week 15.
The Oakland Raiders have declared QB Mike Glennon, OT Trent Brown, DL Olsen Pierre, LB Kyle Wilber, CB Daryl Worley, WR Hunter Renfrow and OT David Sharpe inactive for Week 15.
The Los Angeles Chargers have declared DL Sylvester Williams, CB Desmond King, OT Trey Pipkins, QB Easton Stick, S Roderic Teamer, WR Jalen Guyton and OG Spencer Drango inactive for Week 15.
The Cleveland Browns have declared WR Taywan Taylor, LB Olivier Vernon, OT Drew Forbes, TE Pharaoh Brown, DL Justin Zimmer, CB Eric Murray and TE David Njoku inactive for Week 15.
Updating a previous report, Green Bay Packers CB Tramon Williams (head) has been cleared to return to the Week 15 game after being checked for a concussion.
Detroit Lions DT Mike Daniels (arm) suffered an arm injury during the Week 15 game and is considered questionable to return.
Kansas City Chiefs DE Alex Okafor (chest) suffered a chest injury during the Week 15 game and will not return.
Green Bay Packers RB Tyler Ervin (hand) suffered a hand injury during the Week 15 game and is considered questionable to return.
Green Bay Packers CB Tramon Williams (head) left the Week 15 game early and is being evaluated for a concussion.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (thumb) is officially active for Week 15 against the Detroit Lions. Winston wasn't able to throw a football in practice until Friday, though he was able to finish off last week's 456-yard, four-touchdown performance with the injury. Winston has a great chance to stay hot against Detroit's suspect pass defense. Fantasy owners must beware the risk- Winston can be erratic even without a fractured thumb.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs, illness) is inactive for Week 15 against the Denver Broncos. Darwin Thompson, LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware will shoulder the load for Kansas City. The Chiefs backfield isn't an ideal fantasy situation, though McCoy, who's had success running in snowy conditions, and Thompson are probably the safest choices.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) is officially inactive for Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Scarbrough wasn't able to practice on Thursday or Friday, so it was likely a longshot for him to play anyway. Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, and practice-squad call-up Wes Hills will lead the backfield in Scarbrough's absence. All are shaky plays, considering Tampa Bay possesses the league's best run defense.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (concussion) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Parker has been playing well during the second half of the season and should continue to be the main option in the passing game for the Dolphins. He will have a favorable matchup and can be at least a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (groin, wrist) is active for Week 15's game against the Chicago Bears.
New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Sanu has posted disappointing numbers since joining the Patriots but should have a favorable matchup this week. He could be a flex option in some deeper leagues but can also be benched if fantasy players have better options available.
The Houston Texans have declared CB Cornell Armstrong, WR Keke Coutee, WR Steven Mitchell, RB Taiwan Jones, DL Joel Heath, DT Eddie Vanderdoes and FS Mike Adams inactive for Week 15.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) is officially active for Week 15 against the Tennessee Titans. When healthy, Fuller has been a difference-maker, averaging 7.6 targets and 74 receiving yards per game. He possesses considerable upside and could be worth a start in what should be a competitive divisional game. Fuller's presence is also a boost to quarterback Deshaun Watson's stock for this contest.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee, shoulder) is active for Week 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Edelman was optimistic about playing, though it's nice to get the official word. He's a must-start considering his eight-game streak with double-digit targets and the fact that Tom Brady doesn't seem to trust any other receiver in this offense right now.